By Local Democracy Reporter
PLANS to reshape healthcare in south Essex will go ahead after the health secretary rejected concerns from councillors that they could put patients at risk.
Health secretary Matt Hancock accepted recommendations from an Independent Reconfiguration Panel, which said in a report that concerns raised by both Southend and Thurrock Councils are “not a sufficient reason not to proceed”.
Southend councillors had called on health secretary Matt Hancock to review the £118million transformation scheme over a proposal to move stroke services to Basildon and the quality of a public consultation.
Councillors in Thurrock also called on Mr Hancock to look at the plans because they feared that a proposal to close Orsett Hospital in Grays and replace it with four new Integrated Medical Centres (IMCs) was “not in the interest of health services in Thurrock.
They were particularly concerned that the consultation had failed to make it clear to the public that the scheme would lead to the hospital’s closure.
However, the independent panel acknowledges that details on the relocation of stroke services from Southend to Basildon are “a little light” but it has been considered in detail by organisations such as the NHS England National Director for Stroke, the Stroke Association, and the East of England Clinical Senate.
It notes: “The Panel does not presume to have any greater expertise than those bodies already closely involved. We simply note that, had the national model been adopted – and while evidence of a formal options appraisal for site selection is perhaps a little light – clinical interdependencies and geography suggest that Basildon Hospital would have been the more likely site for a single hyper-acute stroke unit serving the whole population.”
It goes on to offer reassurances that the “long term sustainability” of the model will be assessed by a specially appointed evaluation team from University College London’s Department of Applied Health Research.
In response to the issues highlighted by Thurrock, the panel says that the council was made aware of the Orsett Hospital’s closure in 2015 and since then agreements have been signed and “the panel expects this undertaking to be honoured”.
It continues: “The Panel appreciates that more clarity may be required locally on the precise ‘how/where/when’ details of the programme – not least on how the workforce will transfer from the old setting to the new – but that is not a sufficient reason not to proceed.
“With intelligent dispersing of the new services, that minimises possible travel/transfer disruption for patients who may need to access more than one service, the IMCs should be an improvement on current service provision.”
It adds that these changes will be in the interests of health services locally.
Addressing criticisms of the consultation process, the panel says that a Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee was formed to assess the transformation scheme and that committee “acknowledged that significant consultation work had been undertaken”. As a result of these comments “the panel finds it difficult to reconcile these statements with the criticisms”
Tom Abell, Deputy Chief Executive of Basildon, Southend and Broomfield Hospitals said: “We are pleased we now have the green light from the independent panel of experts and the Department of Health to improve care for residents.”